Listening to the Voices of Our Patients: ACHQC’s Patient Engagement and Advocacy Committee in Action

By Michael Rosen, MD, Abdominal Core Health Quality Collaborative (ACHQC), Medical Director and Benjamin Poulose, MD ACHQC Director of Quality and Outcomes

Over the next few months, many surgeons will attend their first professional in-person annual conference in nearly two years, with talk of clinical studies, surgical tips, and product performance filling conference programs. What is oftentimes lacking throughout these presentations and peer-to-peer conversations among clinicians is the patient voice.

The Abdominal Core Health Quality Collaborative (ACHQC) seeks to change that dynamic.

Founded in 2013, the ACHQC is a non-profit collaborative focused on maximizing quality and value of care delivered to patients with hernias and other abdominal core diseases. Through continuous quality improvement, real world data collection, rigorous analysis, and collaborative learning, the ACHQC identifies areas where abdominal core health may be enhanced and shares this information in meaningful ways that have direct impact on patient care. Currently, the ACHQC registry includes data on over 84,000 patients collected by more than 470 surgeons across the country.

With patients at the core of the ACHQC’s mission, we continually strive to understand and improve their experiences – before, during, and after surgery. Critically important to this endeavor is our Patient Engagement and Advocacy Committee.

As surgeons, we know that patients who are engaged and educated ultimately become more informed decision makers. We hope our efforts will encourage patients to feel more empowered to dialog with their care providers and take a more active role in the management of their individual care plan. We formed our dedicated ACHQC Patient Engagement and Advocacy Committee to listen to the voice of hernia patients and bring the patient perspective to other ACHQC stakeholders (surgeons, clinical care teams, FDA, and industry) and the community at large.

Committee members represent many ACHQC stakeholders including surgeons, patients, and our communications team. They are highly motivated and have a strong desire to share their experience for the benefit of helping others. Patient representatives on the Committee come from all walks of life across the country and are considering or have had hernia or abdominal wall surgery or participate in the care of someone who has had hernia or abdominal core surgery.

The Committee meets monthly, and the key message that quickly emerged is that we need to improve the way we communicate with patients.

With the uncertain and changing environment due to the pandemic, everyone has recognized the need to transform how we network with each other. We began to develop and deliver online, interactive programs such as our new “QC Core Insights” monthly series, offering continuous opportunities to learn from and connect with each other. Recently, our Patient Engagement and Advocacy Committee put on a featured QC Core Insights program, “Enhancing Outcomes: The Patient Perspective” that included highly engaging and lively discussions on “Expectations vs Reality” and “What Patients Need and Want to Know Before their Procedure.” QC Core Insights programs are free to anyone interested in participating and recordings are accessible from our website for on-demand viewing at

Continuing our outreach efforts, two of our Committee members shared their stories in “Talking with Your Patients About Hernia Mesh, a featured article the recent General Surgery News Hernia Focus edition. General Surgery News is distributed to over 16,000 general surgeons electronically, and this piece is scheduled to be provided in print form at the upcoming Americas Hernia Society Annual Meeting. 

Additionally, the ACHQC has taken several opportunities to team up with others to enhance the patient experience and extend our collaborative endeavors. ACHQC surgeons have forged dynamic interrelationships with colleagues specializing in pain management, anesthesiology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, nursing, and rehabilitation services, and jointly created several data driven tools for patients and their care providers. These include our ACHQC mobile app and individualized patient risk calculator, Abdominal Core Surgery Patient and Physical Therapy Rehabilitation Guides, and informational handouts to educate patients on the dangers of opioids and offering alternative pain management options following hernia surgery. 

Ongoing and future initiatives of the ACHQC and our Patient Engagement and Advocacy Committee include development of patient-friendly enhanced communications materials, updating our online presence, and looking to identifying potential outcomes disparities across patient populations based on metrics sensitive to socioeconomic status and health care availability.

As surgeons, we owe it to our patients to continuously improve. We must closely listen and learn from their experiences. 

For more information about the ACHQC and our ongoing efforts, please visit

The Abdominal Core Health Quality Collaborative is a National Health Council (NHC) member. For more information on joining the NHC, click here.